The village of Tazmily was once a sleepy and peaceful place. We have gotten to know it rather well over 3 chapters — we know the people by name, we know the layout, and we have a pretty good idea of the kind of lives that people might live here. But now it is three years later, and the place that we once knew has changed. It is not unrecognizable. The layout is the same, the same people live here, but the way of life has been altered by the twin forces of consumerism and militarization. The training grounds of the Pigmask army occupy the old pasture, the local inn has been replaced by an ugly concrete box of a building, police officers look at you askance when you are just walking around. Lucas, finally taking up his role as protagonist, no longer knows everyone by name — there are strangers now identified only as “Man” or “Woman” … some are just passing through, but others work as cops or waitresses. Instead of simply working together to meet their needs, many of the villagers now commute to a nearby factory/mine, working long and unpleasant hours in order to earn money to buy things that three years ago they didn’t know they wanted. The factory workers are compensated with tickets to Club Titiboo, where the waitresses are expected to look cute and giggle at the end of every sentence, whether or not they want to.
The saddest part of the town, the real indication that things are worse, not just different, is the way elders are dealt with. In the previous chapters, two old men (Flint’s and Duster’s fathers) have helped you out. They have fought with you and provided you with information. Both these men once lived independently or with family. Now, they have been moved to the saddest old folks’ home in the world. They have become marginal, no longer a part of the life of the village. In addition to the two grandfather figures, Tazmily also had another old man. Scamp was frail and crotchety. He lived with his son’s family and never got out of bed, but his life was still meaningful — he had his giant teddy bear and his talking parrot, whom he’s trained to say amusing things. Returning to the village three years on, we learn that Scamp has died. His death notice, buried under a ton of others on a bulletin board, is just heartbreaking. I don’t remember exactly, but it says something like:
Scamp has died.
That is all.
There is no place in the new town for old folks, and their passing makes people in this new and shiny future uncomfortable. We don’t really know how the Tazmily villagers dealt with natural deaths in the past (we know they were pretty rotten at handling Hinawa’s unnatural death), but I suspect that Scamp’s life once would have been honored with more than this briefest of notices.
The transformation of the town has not been totally forced — most people love their Happy Boxes and see this state of being as progress of some sort, even if maybe they’d rather not work in the mine quite so much. However, there is definitely a sinister element — Lucas and Flint have refused a Happy Box, and find their home and barn to be struck by lightning with eery frequency. In fact, there has been quite a lot of lightning in the last few years, all of it concentrated on the few houses that have remained Happy Boxless. How suspicious! And what is that mysterious tower that the Pigmasks built outside the borders of the town, anyway?
However, there is at least one good thing about the new life of the town. Club Titiboo may be shady have poor policies regarding their waitstaff, but they do allow for something that Tazmily wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. Live music! The house band at Club Titiboo are a Blue Brothers-like group called DCMC, and they are pretty awesome. But it isn’t just this one particular band that is good, but the possibility of connection with culture. Tazmily was idyllic in its past isolation, but before I get too wrapped up in nostalgia for imagined times past, I will say that connection with larger urban centers, as well as technological advancements, do allow for a cultural life that wasn’t previously possible. There are some bad things about the new future: unnecessary and unexplained militarization, enforced conformity, wage slavery driven by the desire for material goods prompted by corrupting media influences, marginalization of old people, destruction of the old and the natural in place of uncritical acceptance of the new and the artificial. But technological and societal advancement aren’t necessarily bad things…DCMC shows that they can be positive as well. Tazmily was once a lovely place, but it was a bit stuck in a rut and its people were emotionally stunted. As the destroyed castle of Chapter 2 and the poor emotional judgement of Chapter 1 show us, it had some forgotten or overlooked problems of its own that were never really addressed.